Islamic authorities in Malaysia are conducting an investigation into a controversial “dog patting” event aimed at removing the stigma regarding the animal in the multi-ethnic Muslim-majority country.
The event, titled “I want to touch a dog” and held in a park on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, encouraged patting dogs, widely considered to be unclean in Islam, and reportedly drew hundreds of Muslims, raising the ire of religious leaders.
Islamic authorities said they would investigate the event, while a Muslim leader, Nooh Gadut, said it was an attempt to insult clerics.
“Don’t try to create a culture that is opposite to Islam,” he was quoted by local media as saying.
The organiser, Syed Azmi Alhabshi, who is a Muslim, had said his intention was to help people overcome their fear of dogs and promote compassion towards animals.
Many Malaysians posted positive comments about the event on social media.
“This is so heart warming to see a good change in my home country,” one Facebook user said.
Muslims who took part in the event last Sunday performed in a special washing ritual at the end of the event.
The Southeast Asian country generally practises a moderate brand of Islam, but conservative views have gained increasing traction in recent years, with minorities complaining of what they see as Islamisation.
Recently, rights groups appealed for the government to repeal laws discriminating against transgender people after it was revealed that the group faced assault and extortion from authorities.